USAF’s “Smart Operations 21” Aimed to Improve Operations & Maintenance
In its search to improve aircraft maintenance turnaround and improve quality, The US Air Force spliced elements of several civilian efficiency programs to develop “Smart Operations 21” (AFSO 21). The program is based on both Lean and Six Sigma business process improvement tools, and focuses on saving time and money, reducing waste and improving quality. The January 9, 2006 article “Air Force improving production with Smart Operations 21” describes the concepts behind Smart Operations 21, some examples of changes made as a result of applying these principles, and its envisioned applicability beyond aircraft maintenance and logistics.
Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, USA has already applied a number of related principles to its efforts. As the 58th Maintenance Group’s commander Col. Debra Shattuck noted:
“The key to our success is to generate safe, quality aircraft for the flying schedule… Because we have small numbers of multiple types of aircraft, it is imperative that we minimize aircraft downtime.”
Redesigning workspaces, rationalizing requirements and processes, and modifying other processes reduced turnaround time by 43% for the 58th Special Operations Wing’s MH-53J Pave Low III helicopters, and cut the phase standard time from 25 to 20 workdays. Initial negative reactions have become positive, and the technicians at Kirtland AFB have also implemented changes in processes like C-130 Hercules inspections, maintenance on the T700 engines used in HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters, etc.
Of course, if you really want to be a smart operator and improve maintenance, this pilot’s guide to operating a helicopter mechanic is highly recommended.